1 Corinthians 3:11—Who is the foundation of the church, Christ or the apostles?

Problem: In this text, Paul insists that “no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” On the other hand, Paul told the Ephesians that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles” (Eph. 2:20). Which is it?

Solution: The answer is in the very next phrase in the last quote: “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20). Christ is the foundation in a primary sense, and His chosen apostles are the foundation in a secondary sense. Christ is, as it were, the substructure, and the apostles are the foundation built on that (see Matt. 16:16–18). Christ is the kingpin that holds the apostolic foundation of the church together. It was His deeds (death and resurrection) and their doctrine (cf. Acts 2:42) about Him that formed the foundation of the Christian church.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.